We are paying for being different

Ismail Saeed Mohammed Ali (Ismail Gelaleiy)  during the "No for Now" rally in the city of Sulaimani.

Ismail Saeed Mohammed Ali (Ismail Gelaleiy) during the "No for Now" rally in the city of Sulaimani.

Ismail Saeed Mohammed Ali (Ismail Gelaleiy) is a former Kurdistan Parliament member, former board member of the independent Kurdish newspaper Awena, and one of ten former members on the organizing committee for the “No for now” campaign. The “No For Now” campaign was in opposition to the recent referendum vote held in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Ismail shared with CPT about the threats to his life and heavy surveillance he experienced in the period just before the Kurdish Referendum vote took place. He reported that he was heavily observed by unknown persons and security forces during his involvement in the “No For Now” Campaign.

Ismail said that on September 8, the night before a big rally for the “No For Now” campaign, he noticed a vehicle was following him. Shortly after, three armed men in a land cruiser stopped him on an empty stretch of Shusti Road in Sulaimani and threatened to kidnap him. Ismail said he refused to go easy with them. The armed men blocked his car for over ten minutes as they called an unknown person on the telephone. In the end, he was released and the armed men drove away.

He continued and said; “I thought it happened because we had a demonstration scheduled for the next day. They wanted to put pressure and fear in me and my friends,”  he said. The next day Ismail helped hold the rally anyway. After that evening his family was increasingly upset with being heavily monitored and on September 13th they decided to leave the country.

On September 19, the day before President Barzani was to give a speech about the referendum in Sulaimani, an Arabian TV channel interviewed Ismail. He said that during this interview he spoke out against the government.  Ismail reported, that the day of the television interview several unknown people came to his home but he was not there at the time. The men wore regular clothes, carried pistols, and asked about Ismail’s whereabouts.  The men left after realizing that he was not at home. Later that same night,  several more armed men came into Ismail’s home without knocking on the door. The men were wearing security uniforms and asked about Ismail again. The men checked the whole house for Ismail and when they couldn’t find him they left. 

“Before this happened my wife told me that we were being observed. I did not want to tell my children how serious and dangerous it was getting because I didn’t want to upset them,” he told CPT. 

“I have seen people in power use a lot of bad and strange scenarios against activists, human rights defenders, and journalists to pressure them into giving up their struggle. Things like trying to  destroy social, political, economic, and moral positions, even after a person’s death.”

Ismial told CPT that he worries about these three main things:   He is concerned for his children’s safety,  He thinks about the possibility that he will be unjustly imprisoned, and he thinks someone may try to defame him and ruin his reputation.

“The ‘No For Now’ campaign is finished and changing into a new political party.”  He told CPT. “I hope the situation will get better so I can come back to Kurdistan soon.”